In the midst of the toil and stress that accompanies final month of the semester, few things can lift your (re: my) spirits like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk ice cream. But as you (see also: I) put down your spoon after killing the entire damn cylinder of frozen dairy goodness, nothing else stands between you and that 17-page research paper. All seems lost. But wait! A heavenly voice from your computer beckons your ears, delivering a smile and a refreshing sigh of brief relief. Perhaps Jónsi can make everything better.
The lead singer from the lovely Icelandic band Sigur Rós, Jónsi released his debut solo album Go earlier this month. Anyone accustomed to Sigur Rós’s consistently ethereal sound should not be all too surprised by Jónsi’s newest work, and yet such familiarity doesn’t dull the warmly emotive reaction that Go elicits. With Go, Jónsi maintains his wonderful sense of pacing that he has exhibited with Sigur Rós, but instead of falling in and out of earshot with textured instrumentals building and then releasing, Jónsi asserts the soft, resounding power of his own voice as the foundation for one of the year’s best records thus far.
Jónsi opted to sing the majority of his debut album in English rather than his usual fictional Vonleska (“Hopelandic”), but truthfully, understanding the lyrics matters little in appreciating this offering. Jónsi’s falsetto dominates the entire record, occasionally in moments beautiful melancholy, but primarily with inspiring crescendos directed at no one in particular. Go is equally dramatic as Jónsi’s past efforts, but with greater accessibility and a heightened sense of wonder (if that’s possible). Album highlight “Boy Lilikoi” will surely test your heart’s ability to flutter, and take flight it will. “Tornado” takes a darker turn, as Jónsi whispers “You grow from the inside/Destroy everything through,” balancing out an otherwise life-affirming album.
Strings, woodwind, piano, and all flavors of percussive goodies form complex layers in support of Jónsi’s voice, all of which meld into a fantastically produced album. The record easily could have fallen flat with shoddy studio work, but Go proves to have just enough polish to tap the potential of Jónsi’s skyward sound while not hampering the Icelander’s sonically evasive nature. Go pulses, drives, sinks, but only briefly, recovering quickly to rise above cloud cover. Allow yourself to coo throughout, even if finals bear down your newly goosebumped neck.
Highlights: “Go Do”; “Boy Lilikoi”; “Around Us”
-- Scott Lensing